TORONTO — WWLD.
What Would Lou Do?
What Would Lou Lamoriello Do if the Maple Leafs believe it’s time to move one of hockey’s legendary executives out of the general manager’s chair onto a comfy adviser’s couch in order to slide either Kyle Dubas or Mark Hunter in the lead role?
Would Lamoriello willingly recede into the background for the first time in his career — first time in his adult life, really — and smell the roses while basking in the affection of his adored grandchildren?
Or would he seek to conquer a new frontier by taking over the operation on Long Island in order to rescue the shipwrecked franchise and restore it to its long-ago historical greatness?
I wouldn’t bet so much as toonie against it.
He is 75 now with a birthday upcoming in October. But as anyone who has ever worked for and with him knows, this is a man who operates on Lamoriello Time. He is the one who sets the clock.
Lamoriello came to the Devils from Providence College in May 1987 as team president. Four months later, he was the GM. When, following the 2014-15 season, he was eased solely into the president’s role by new ownership while hiring Ray Shero as GM, it took less than three months for Lamoriello to leave the New Jersey organization with which he had become synonymous and join the Maple Leafs.
There are still worlds to conquer and a fourth Stanley Cup to add to the plaque that hangs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is operating with far greater resources here with the Leafs than he would have on the Island, as Brendan Shanahan has created a dynamic back-of-the-house operation, but Lamoriello’s experience living in Toronto’s multi-dimensional, analytics-invested process has presented him with a 21st century example to follow.
I am, by the way, taking for granted that the Scott Malkin-Jon Ledecky ownership has been waiting for the opportunity to speak to Lamoriello, whose contract is believed to expire at the end of June, but good luck confirming that. If not, this would be dereliction of duty.
And there is this: Chris Lamoriello, Lou’s son, a respected hockey man in his own right, operates as the Islanders’ assistant general manager after serving as senior VP of hockey operations for the Devils and GM of AHL Albany for 14 years.
If Lou Lamoriello could establish a line of succession as part of his agreement with ownership in which he would be followed by his son as GM, that could well be an inducement for him to take over the Islanders, whose whole has consistently been less than the sum of their parts without unquestioned command at the top.
It has been clear from the start that Lamoriello is proud of his identification with the Maple Leafs, whom he has called “The Yankees of the NHL.” But the Islanders are the Islanders of History, the only team in pro sports to ever win 19 consecutive playoff series.
The NHL’s Legacy Franchise can become Lamoriello’s Legacy Team.
WWLD? Only a fool would try to guess. This perhaps means that you have come to the right place. No, I don’t know, and perhaps neither does Lou, but I sure wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Lamoriello riding to the rescue on the Island the way he did 31 years ago in New Jersey.
The battered fan base can only hope.
The comfy couch can wait.
Shanahan, meanwhile, has done a magnificent job of assembling a cabinet, including head coach Mike Babcock, of strong personalities who have been willing to subjugate their egos for the greater good. It isn’t exactly a Team of Rivals, but it is unique in the NHL.
The task of maintaining unity becomes more difficult by the year, however, with other organizations interested in hiring his people while granting them promotions. Preserving the dynamic will be as challenging for Shanahan this summer as finding that top-four defenseman/defensemen necessary for the Leafs to win a round.
John Tortorella issued a mea culpa for Columbus’ six-game first-round defeat to the Capitals after the Blue Jackets had taken the opening two games in Washington in overtime. The coach blamed himself for allowing the team to charter home immediately after Game 2 as planned rather than spending the night and flying back to Columbus the following morning.
But with all of the moving parts involved, that is not a decision to be reached on the fly, and it is not one that should be reserved for the head coach. The hockey department should take responsibility for such decisions and they should be made well in advance. Seems like Tortorella might have fallen on his sword in this one.
And yes, club president John Davidson has a decision to make regarding Tortorella, who has only one more year remaining on his contract at a somewhat below NHL market $2 million, with assistant Brad Shaw in waiting.
It is extremely unusual to send a coach into a lame-duck season, even though that’s what the Caps did this year with Barry Trotz, unlikely to return regardless of the outcome of the tournament, what with assistant Todd Reirden long ago granted an extension.
It has been made clear that the league believes the current playoff format benefits the business by producing attention-drawing matchups in the second round. Competitive integrity runs second in the NHL, but that’s not exactly a news flash, is it?
Finally, apparently no last licks for Brad Marchand, with the league rushing to explain that the predatory Boston winger had not — repeat, has not — been advised to keep his tongue to himself.
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